Chapel Hill: Opinion

Please, no guns on N.C. campuses – Jerry VanSant

Jerry VanSant
Jerry VanSant

Recently filed legislation in the N.C. General Assembly would allow concealed-carry permit holders to carry their guns on UNC System and NC community college colleges.

What a terrible idea!

1. Most U.S. campuses prohibit guns. The overwhelming majority of the more than 4,300 colleges and universities in the United States wisely prohibit students, faculty, and visitors from carrying concealed handguns on campus. About 93 percent of violent crimes that victimize college students occur off campus, so allowing guns on campus doesn’t even address the perceived question.

2. Mistakes are likely. The Violence Policy Center reminds us that when police officers fire their weapons, they sometimes make fatal mistakes in deciding when deadly force is justified. Teachers will not likely perform any better. Moreover, the close quarters of a classroom may make it even more difficult for teachers to effectively use deadly force against an assailant. There is no credible evidence to suggest that the presence of students carrying concealed weapons would reduce violence on our campuses.

3. Administrative costs are large. It would be a huge burden for school districts, individual schools, and teachers to ensure that firearms are not lost or stolen and then trace those that are missing.

4. Faculty and students don’t want guns on campus. The Kansas City Star notes that polling of faculty and students consistently shows widespread opposition to guns on campuses. Professors worry that a student upset by a grade could become a lethal threat. Resident assistants shudder to consider trying to manage routine disputes between students when someone might be armed.

5. Suicide risk would increase: Student body organizations have wisely raised the prospect of increased suicides as the stresses of college mix with alcohol and ready access to a handgun.

6. Homicides are actually more likely. A North Carolina study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that workplaces allowing workers to carry firearms and other weapons at work were five to seven times more likely to be the site of an on-the-job homicide compared to workplaces that prohibited workers from carrying weapons. This study confirms that, just as residents of households with guns are more likely to become a victim of a homicide in the home, workers who work in places that allow guns, including college campuses, are more likely to be killed while at work.

7. Prevention is the key. The focus should remain on preventing guns from getting into schools, rather than relying on teachers or other education professionals to prevail in a shoot-out.

These arguments are backed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University who have released a study that argues the campus-carry movement is based on flawed assumptions about the relationship between civilian gun use, violent crime and mass shootings, including several killings on college campuses.

The higher likelihood for college-aged people to engage in reckless behavior – binge drinking, drug use, fighting, suicide – heightens the danger, they said. “Increasing gun availability in campus environments could make far more common acts of aggression, recklessness or self-harm more deadly and, thus, have a deleterious impact on the safety of students, faculty and staff” they wrote in a report published by the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

These days it’s hard to get college presidents, students, and campus police to agree on much. But on this issue the clear message is that allowing guns on campus is a terrible idea!

Jerry VanSant lives in Chapel Hill.